, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp 981-997
Date: 21 Jan 2006

The effects of gene flow and population isolation on the genetic structure of␣reintroduced wild turkey populations: Are genetic signatures of source populations retained?

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Abstract

To counter losses of genetic diversity in reintroduced populations, species sometimes are reintroduced into networks of populations with the potential to exchange individuals. In reintroduced populations connected by gene flow, patterns of genetic structure initiated by the founding event may become obscured, and populations may eventually follow an isolation-by-distance model of genetic differentiation. Taking advantage of well-documented reintroduction histories of wild turkey populations in Indiana, we assessed the degree to which gene flow among reintroduced populations has obscured genetic signatures left by the founding events. Using a suite of nuclear microsatellite loci and sequence data from the mitochondrial control region, we characterized the level of genetic diversity and degree of genetic structure within and among: (1) reintroduced populations in isolated northern Indiana Fish and Wildlife Areas, (2) reintroduced populations in southern Indiana Fish and Wildlife Areas, where the distribution of populations is more continuous, and (3) source populations used for these reintroductions. We also utilized individual-based assignment tests to determine the relative contribution of source populations to the current distribution of alleles in reintroduced populations. Our results indicate that wild turkey reintroductions in Indiana have left distinct genetic signatures on populations that are detectable even after several decades. Although we found some case-specific evidence for gene flow, particularly in regions where populations are in close proximity, our data indicate on overall paucity of gene flow at a regional scale. Such post-reintroduction genetic monitoring has immediate implications for the design of optimal strategies to reintroduce wildlife for conservation and management.